Hansell Back on the Job as Chief, Manker to Take Leave of Absence to Focus on Health

By Jeremy Coumbes on August 10, 2021 at 9:35am

South Jacksonville Police Chief Eric Hansell is sworn into office by Mayor Pro Tem Michael Broaddus during a special meeting of the Board of Trustees Monday night.

The Village of South Jacksonville has a full-time Chief of Police again, while the Village Mayor is stepping away for a bit.

The Village of South Jacksonville Board of Trustees met in special session last night for two meetings. The first was called by Village Mayor Tyson Manker for 5:45 pm with two items under the Mayor’s Report, the issuance of Mayoral Order 02-2021 instructing that the United States Pledge of Allegiance would be recited at the beginning of every meeting.

The order comes after Trustee Tom Jordan called into question during last week’s regular meeting that the minutes for each meeting stated Manker had led in the pledge when in fact they had not been saying it.

The second item was for the appointment of Eric Hansell as Chief of Police. Hansell was fired by Manker exactly one week earlier, leading to the contentious August Trustee Meeting last Thursday when over 60 residents turned out in support of Hansell.

Manker said he had heard the voice of the residents who had continued support for Hansell. Manker announced he appointed Hansell as Chief saying that all of his own accomplishments in life would not have been possible without second chances, and that was why he appointed Hansel back as Chief of Police.

We have a job to do. Like all decisions I’ve ever made as Mayor, we have to move this community forward. We cannot let outside negative forces rip us apart or drag us down. I am happy to say that Eric has accepted my appointment, and we need to realize the full potential of our village as a prosperous and vibrant place to live.”

Manker says he has been pushing hard since coming into office working over ten-hour days during the week and even coming in on Saturdays. He says he is now taking a step back from the job to focus on his mental health.

I just wanted to face all of you no matter how hard that is for me. To tell you that I’m not perfect. I’ll be the first to admit publicly that I owe Eric Hansell an apology. And I, you know, I feel like I’ve made the right decision every time that I have been faced with a decision as a leader. It’s tough sometimes. But if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to step out of this meeting and go focus on myself for a little while.”

Manker’s comments were followed by applause from the nearly full meeting room, which then became louder turning into a standing ovation as Manker and Hansel shook hands and embraced in a hug.

Trustee Mike Broaddus was nominated and elected as Mayor Pro Tem for the remainder of the meeting.

The Board then adjourned the first meeting, and a few minutes later at 6:00 pm, opened the second scheduled meeting calling for a closed session and a single action item of whether the Board would overturn Manker’s decision to terminate Hansell.

Following a closed session that lasted just over an hour, the Board reconvened in regular session and approved the overturning of the termination by nearly unanimous vote, with Trustee John Stewart recusing himself, citing that he is related to Hansell and has been friends with Manker since they were children.

The overturning of the termination means Hansell will not have to start over in his probationary period, and the termination will not go on his permanent record.

Hansell says he was happy to come back to the village.

I’m just proud to be back in South Jacksonville and I want to do the best job that I can for the community. I feel that the standard may have been set a little higher than I can achieve by the public. But I’m going to give them the best that I can and do what’s right all the time. And if I make a mistake I’ll admit it and hopefully, we’ll get it corrected. I’m glad to be back for the village.”

Village Trustee Paula Belobrajdic-Stewart said no notice had been given ahead of Manker’s announcement to take some time off. She says the Board will be taking it one day at a time in filling in for Manker going forward.

I’m not really sure what the future is going to hold. We are going to take it one meeting at a time from here on out. We elected Mike Broaddus as the Mayor Pro Tem tonight so we could go ahead and have the meeting. We have a budget meeting, a finance meeting scheduled for Wednesday and Trustee [Megan] Davidson is the chair so she will handle that meeting like she would any other.

I think you’re going to be seeing some more meetings because there have been a lot of issues that have come up that our Board needs to address. So we are moving forward, it’s business as usual for our Board of Trustees.”

Manker was not available for comment following the meetings.

Following the vote to overturn the firing, Mayor Pro Tem Broaddus asked those gathered to observe a moment of silence for Jim Waltrip who passed away last week. Broaddus said “besides being a well-known businessman and blessing to the community, he was also a part time police officer for the Village of South Jacksonville at one time. So let’s take just one moment for him.”